Croteaux: Back to the Garden

June 24, 2021

Friends often ask me which wineries they should go to.  My answer always is, it depends on what you like, but if they want to sit outside in a pretty setting and feel relaxed, Croteaux is my go-to recommendation.  Since I recommend it so frequently, I felt I needed to visit it early on in my renewed project to visit all the wineries!  As my husband likes to say, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Well, I am happy to report that Croteaux continues to be a good choice for the above reasons.  (I was concerned because the winery has new ownership.)

It was another beautiful June day, and we started by running an errand in Greenport and walking around town.  As they did last summer, the town has partially blocked off Front Street so that restaurants and stores can expand their seating and displays.  Lots of outdoor tables and minimal traffic make eating outside here an attractive prospect.  We will be back! 

Front Street in Greenport is now lined with outdoor tables.

The next decision was where to go for a tasting.  According to their website, we did not need a reservation for Croteaux, so off we went.  They have slightly revamped their entry and exit procedures, so you enter directly from the parking lot via the opening in a barn building, where a pleasant young woman walked us to a table.  She brought with her a bottle of water and two glasses, a nice touch. We sipped the water as we waited a short time for our waitress—it is all table service. When you leave and it’s time to pay, you go through a little vestibule which used to be both the exit and entrance, and would get quite crowded, but now was easy to navigate.  Checks are handed out tied to clam or oyster shells, a smart move, since this keeps them from blowing away.

The tasting menu, accessed via a QR code on the table, offered two choices—in addition to individual glasses.  You can try all six of their still rosés for $25, or their three sparkling rosés for $20.  They only make rosés, by the way.  We opted to share the still wines, plus a basket of sliced baguette and a soft Boursin-like cheese for $12, since it was lunch time.  They have a nice little menu of snacks, including some more substantial offerings like lobster roll sliders for $22 for two servings.  (The still wines are $35-$39 per bottle, and sparklers $45-$49.)

Our tastes arrived, three glasses each in two pottery saucers, with the varieties listed beneath the glasses, and we were instructed to taste counterclockwise from a particular spot—or not, depending on what we liked to do!  But I would recommend going in that order, from lightest to strongest, since otherwise a light wine might be overshadowed by a more forceful cousin.  As we sipped and munched, enjoying both our drinks and our snack, we watched the antics of two little dogs which a couple at a nearby table had brought with them.

  1.  Chloe

This is their lightest wine, barely tinged with pink, and is described on the menu as a “white wine drinker’s rosé,” which I can see.  It smells like honeysuckle, and has nice tropical fruit flavors.

  • Merlot 3

The name of this and a couple of other wines refers to the clone of merlot used to make them.  This has a flowery aroma that is quite pleasant, and is also tasty.  Like all their rosés, it is dry, in the French style.  I was trying to decide what I tasted when my tasting buddy suggested mandarin oranges.  Exactly.

  • Merlot 181

Unlike the previous two, this wine has barely any aroma.  It is light and refreshing, a good sipper for a warm day, with a slight strawberry taste and lots of minerality.

  • Merlot Sauvage

If you know French, you may wonder what could be wild about a wine.  The answer is, the yeast.  Instead of using the known quantity of a yeast they have bought, winemakers will sometimes use the indigenous yeast which is found on all grapes, giving them less control over the final product but often delicious results.  Channing Daughters makes a wine they call L’Enfant Sauvage, which uses wild yeast.  This one has a woodsy aroma, a light pink color, and a definite taste of watermelon (which reminded me of a recent taste I had of watermelon infused with a Negroni).  Mouth-watering.

  • Merlot 314

Not sure why, but the menu labels this “bistro-style.”  This is my husband’s least favorite of the day, though it is certainly drinkable.  It has hints of lemon/lime and tangerine.

  • Jolie

Pretty is an apt name for this deep pink wine, with lots of strawberry aroma and taste.  It has more depth than the other rosés, with touches of minerals and herbs, and reminded me of strawberries macerated with white wine.  The menu calls it a “red wine lover’s rosé.”

Reasons to visit: lovely garden setting; pleasant laid-back vibe (the speakers were playing reggae-inflected and soft rock music while we were there); lots of easy-to-drink rosés; nice menu of snacks; I especially liked the Chloe, the Sauvage, and the Jolie; dogs!

Croteaux Vineyards: Easy to Drink   Rosés           June 9, 2017

http://www.croteaux.com/

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The very first time we went to Croteaux we fell in love with the beautiful garden and its comfortable seats and the refreshing, easy to drink rosé wines.  In fact, we liked them so much that we bought a case, and then discovered we had joined their “case club.”  Now it’s our favorite wine club as well, and we start every summer season by buying a case. In addition to the reduction in price that is pretty standard at any winery for buying a case, you can also come to the winery and have a free tasting.  Then, several times a year, they invite you to special events.  The most recent one included oysters and glasses of rosé, with apparently no limit on either.  Oh my.

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The view from our table out to the vineyard.

However, I don’t recommend going to Croteaux unless the weather is right for sitting outside, since their inside accommodations are not nearly as nice as the outside ones.  Fortunately, June finally brought us a beautiful sunny day, with a slight breeze making the weather perfect for visiting the garden.  We decided to sample all their wares, and so had a tasting of their six still rosés, for $15, and their three sparkling rosés, also $15.  Feeling the need for a little snack, we ordered the artichoke tapenade with croutons (French bread toasted and brushed with garlic, herbs, and olive oil) for $10.  In the past, we’ve had their goat cheese basket and the roasted nuts, both of which are good.  The artichoke tapenade was quite nice, a combination of artichoke, olives, lemon, and herbs.  The baskets all came garnished with a sprig of mint “from the owners’ garden.  The mint went crazy so they decided to add it to all the baskets,” explained our lovely server.  (They have a sign saying no outside food.)  One other note—they allow dogs on the leash, and every time we’ve come we’ve seen at least one or two canine visitors.

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Today’s pooch is in the background of this photo. Note the nice comfy Adirondack chairs.

  1. Merlot 181 Rosé            $19

The particular clone of merlot is what gives this wine and the next two their names.  This is, as you would expect for the first taste, their lightest rosé, almost white in color, with a slight mineral aroma and a tart citrusy taste and a slightly sweet finish.  “You could drink a lot of this and never notice—until you fell over,” opined my tasting pal.  When we came for the oysters this was one of the wines we had, and it went very well with them.

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Our first three tastes. Note the differences in color!

  1. Merlot 314 Rosé $19

Our favorite this year—we bought a case of it—this one has more character than the 181, with a slight chemical aroma and a tart taste that combines strawberries and citrus.  My husband adds that he tastes a bit of pear, too.  It would work well to sip on its own, nicely chilled, and would also go well with lots of different foods.

  1. Merlot 3 $19

A blend of 181, 314, and 3, this one reminds us more of a white wine than a rosé, with lots of tart citrusy tastes.  Sort of like a sauvignon blanc, but without the pineapple tastes that wine often has.  The color is a pretty pink, and the smell has a bit of something funky as well as minerality.

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The second three of the still wines. A coaster under each glass identifies the wine.

  1. Sauvage 181 Rosé $24

“Sauvage” is French for wild, as this wine is made with wild yeasts, which means it can vary quite a bit from year to year.  This year is a winner.  More interesting than your average rosé, this is mouth-watering (which I insist means it has some tannins), with a taste that combines fruit salad and lime and an aroma of pineapple and guava.  If we had decided to get the newest item on their menu—mini lobster rolls from American Beech—I would have gotten a glass of this to go with it.  Well, the summer is just getting started.  We may have to come back…

  1. Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé $24

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can see why.  Made with sauvignon blanc plus a little cabernet franc (“for color”), this is another yummy wine, with aromas of pine forest and citrus plus peach tastes.  Delicate, it would be fine to sip on its own, or paired with a light white fish like sole.

  1. Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé $24

Described as a French Bordeaux, “for red wine lovers,” this is my least favorite of the day.  It’s the sweetest of the rosés, though there is some minerality to balance the sweetness, with a red candy aroma.  We get the tapenade as we’re still sampling this, and I like it better with food.

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Tapenade.

  1. Cuvée Sparkle $29

Now we move on to the sparkling wines, which come in tall slim glasses, held in a metal carrier.  I would put all three of them in the “fun” wine category, as they are not overly expensive for sparkling wines and are all easy to drink.  The first is a blend of their three merlot clones and smells like them, of minerals with a bit of strawberry. Tart and refreshing and very bubbly, this is a sparkler I would choose, though my husband notes that not everyone would like it.  If you are looking for a sweet rosé sparkler, this would not be for you.

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The bubblies. We had already tried the first one before I remembered to snap a photo.

  1. Chloe Sparkle $29

Like the still Chloe, this is made from sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc grapes, and is quite different from the Cuvée.  The aroma has, in addition to the expected smells, something vegetal about it, maybe a cruciferous veggie.  The taste is more complex than the Cuvée, a touch sweeter, and would go perfectly with a tray of charcuterie.

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Jolie means pretty, and indeed this is a pretty color.

  1. Jolie Sparkle $29

Pretty color!  More like what people expect from a rosé sparkler, this is the sweetest wine of the day, so you should not be surprised to hear that I didn’t care for it.  However, my tasting partner thinks “people would like it.”  The aroma combines red candy, strawberry, and a funky forest smell.  I compare the taste to watermelon.

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Reasons to visit:  the garden!!!; the only winery that only makes rosés; the best rosés on the North Fork, especially the 314, the Sauvage 181, and the Chloe Sparkle;  prices; good snacks; the garden, the garden, the garden.

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Roses and then  rosés .

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Croteaux: Still Our Favorite Garden August 26, 2016

http://www.croteaux.com/

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It’s a hot Friday afternoon, but in Croteaux’s shady garden it is just pleasantly warm.  We settle into the pair of Adirondack chairs the hostess indicated, and peruse the simple menu.  We have plenty of time to do so, since service is a bit overwhelmed by what is clearly a larger-than-expected crowd in the garden, but when our waitress appears we order two tastings of all six of their still rosés for $15 each, plus a basket of delicious herbed goat cheese and fresh baguette slices for $10.  They have a few other snack items as well, which is good since they don’t allow outside food.  We could have ordered a tasting of three of their sparkling rosés, also $15.  The first three on the list are $20 per bottle and the last three are $25.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, all they make is rosé.  The name also hints at the style of rosé, which is lean and flinty and dry, in the manner of French rosés.  All their wines are steel fermented and made to be drunk young.  We just finished the last of the case we bought last year, and we are here to decide whether or not to get a case this year.  As you will see, vintage clearly matters, as we found some of the wines quite different from last year.  Another difference—they used to have a rather extensive boutique with clothes, jewelry, etc., but that is no longer so.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

  1. Merlot 181 (Pomerol)

“181” refers to the clone of merlot used for making this, the lightest of their rosés.  The aroma has a hint of strawberry, and also flowers and, believe it or not, asphalt.  No, really.  There is a distinct chemical smell.  The wine itself is dry, mineral-y, and salty, with not a lot of fruit.  It is very refreshing, with a long finish of the mineral and salt flavor, but not our favorite.

All our tastes at once!

All our tastes at once!

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

  1. Merlot 314 (St. Emilion)

Sniff.  “Auto repair shop,” opines my tasting buddy.  I counter with one of my favorite aromas, though not one usually associated with wine:  “hardware store.”  For the last few years 314 has been our favorite rosé on the North Fork and we’ve bought cases of it.  Not this year.  It’s not bad, despite that aroma, but it is very tart and subdued, with very little fruit.  Some might even say sour.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

  1. Merlot 3

This is a blend of three clones:  181, 314, and 3.  More fruit “on the nose,” as wine people like to say, though it always conjures for me an image of someone balancing a glass of wine on his or her nose.  It would be a mistake to limit your use of this wine to a balancing act, as it is quite nice.  Still there are notes of mineral and salt, but not overwhelmingly so, with nice strawberry flavor.  “More interesting than the usual rosé,” says my husband.  I agree that it has layers of flavor, and we both agree that we’ll get a case of this.

Just barely pink

Just barely pink

  1. Sauvage (Merlot 181)

“Sauvage” means wild, or savage, and this wine is made with wild yeasts.  We like it better than the other 181.  Though it has a touch of that chemical smell, it is much fruitier and sweeter than the other wines, with just a touch of minerality.  Red candy, I say.  It would pair well with spicy food, like Thai duck salad.

  1. Chloe (Sauvignon Blanc with Cabernet Franc skins)

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and indeed it is more like a sauvignon blanc than like a rosé.  It has a sweet pine smell, like a Christmas tree, and tastes a bit like pine as well.  Quite dry, it would pair well with oysters, which gives us an idea.  When Happy Hour comes we will head to the Old Mill Inn for their dollar oysters and $3 glasses of wine.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

  1. Jolie (Cabernet Franc)

Bright pink, this looks more like what one expects a rosé to look like than the other types.  The aroma is somewhat vegetal, maybe like a salad, but also with some fruit.  The wine is still dry, but with a fuller flavor.  A “red wine lover’s rosé,” they call it.  There’s a touch of Meyer lemon on the finish.  I like it, but my tasting companion does not.  I think you could sip this by itself, though of course it would be fine with roast chicken (as are many wines).

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance--it is quite pretty.

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance–it is quite pretty.

Reasons to visit:  all rosé all the time; a very pleasant garden setting where you can relax and sip at your leisure; better-than-average snacks; prettiest bottles on the North Fork; they allow dogs; the Merlot 3 and the Jolie.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

They've created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

They’ve created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

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